West Hollywood City Council members and residents spoke out Monday against the possibility of a giant mixed-use development at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards, prompting a response from the MTA.
In January the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to allow developer Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. to create a proposal to turn the existing county property that includes the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station into an underground MTA bus depot as well as a mixed-use commerical, retail and residential behemoth.
Roger Moliere, MTA chief of real property and new business development, responded to local concerns in an email to Patch.
"The city of West Hollywood will have not only input, but essentially the final say in approval since as in any development, the city’s design guidelines must be met," he said. "As part of the process of any development and certainly in this case, there will be multiple efforts at public outreach as well as multiple public hearings relating to any proposal prior to final submissions."
Moliere also noted that "as a base line, any new development will be required to keep MTA whole—in the exclusive judgment of MTA as to operations and cost, of a bus division of not less than 280 busses. ... The current (agreement) does not constitute an approval of any project or require any approval in the future, it merely allows the developer to analyze, study and design a project and project economics that he feels will meet with the approval of MTA, the city of West Hollywood, who is the ultimate zoning and entitlement authority."
On Monday the council and residents expressed dismay that they were kept out of the loop.
"I will confess that I was completely in the dark about Charles Cohen's plans, and I think all of us here and all of us in the community would prefer that something other than the MTA bus yard be along Santa Monica," said Councilman John Heilman.
"All five up here were pretty flabergasted," Councilman John Duran said. "I haven't lived in the city of West Hollywood for 25 years and defended the Boystown district to see it turned into a mall."
Heilman added, "I don't think it is something that people need to be immediately alarmed, but it is alarming that the MTA went forward with that without getting input from our staff and without getting input from the council."
"It's reall hard to believe that both the city of West Hollywood and the Sheriff's Department would not know that this mega-development was going on," said Weho resident and council candidate Steve Martin.
Cohen Brothers president Charles Cohen, who owns the adjacent Pacific Design Center, did not return a call for comment.
News of the agreement was first reported Friday by WEHOville. Click here to read the website's story.